Herpes Simplex and Herpes Zoster: Treatment with Chinese Medicine

Herpes simplex viruses  can be categorized into two types: HSV 1 is oral herpes while HSV 2 is genital herpes.

When HSV flares up in a person who is already infected, it typically appear as a blistered area around affected areas. These affected areas are usually the mouth/lips (oral herpes) and the genitals/rectum (genital herpes). When the blisters break, it leaves tender sores.

If you already have the HSV virus, outbreaks usually come about because the immune system is compromised, e.g. during a time of physical or emotional stress, secondary to an illness, during the menses, or when using immuno-suppressant drugs.

Both HSV 1 and 2 can spread even if the sore are not noticeable. Diagnosis can be done with lab tests (DNA or PCR tests) and virus cultures.

Blisters around the mouth/lips during an HSV 1 outbreaks are usually very treatable using Chinese herbal medicine. It may be less straightforward for HSV 2 outbreaks, but Chinese herbal treatment can still make significant change.

One of the herbs is Isatis, which has the leaf component (Da Qing Ye) and the root component (Ban Lan Gen). Both of them can effectively clear Toxic Heat, which is common in epidemic febrile diseaes, includig measles, encephalitis B, mumps, protitis, scarlet fever, erysipelas and meningitis. While we know that the decoction of Da Qing Ye is effective against encephalitis B virus and HBsAg (1998), topical application of the decoction of Ban Lan Gen was shown to effective against herpes infection of the skin (1989).

Another herb, Radix Lithospermi (Zi Cao) has been shown an inhibitory effect against herpes, as well as an effectiveness against HBsAg in patients infected with the Hepatitis B virus (1986).

Herpes Zoster (Shingles) is another viral skin condition treatable using Chinese Medicine. For a person who has had chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus that caused it may lay dormant in the peripheral nerves exiting his/her spine. This inactive virus may be activated during a time of compromised immune function (see examples in the section on herpes simplex).

Most people experience the onset of Herpes Zoster as a sensitive, tingling sensation or burning pain, usually on the ribs on one side of the body, but sometimes also on the face. Thereafter, a red rash occurs and groups of blisters start to appear.

During a Herpes Zoster outbreak, the rash is in the blister phase and the virus is Varicella-Zoster virus is contagious. It is not contagious before the blisters appear, nor is it once the blisters erupt and are crusted.

While Herpes Zoster is very painful, it is post-herpetic neuralgia that one want to avoid. This is where the pain persists even after the outbreak is over, is why Herpes Zoster should be treated once it is diagnosed.

Both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are extremely helpful in the treatment of Herpes Zoster. Even if you are using an anti-viral, it is recommended you come for treatment, especially if the shingles are appearing on your face.